Defense

Russian Intel Officers Charged In Hacking And Disinformation Scheme

(Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter

The Justice Department announced indictments Thursday against seven Russian military intelligence officers accused of taking part in a massive hacking scheme aimed at distracting from Russia’s state-sponsored sports doping program.

The Russian spies, who worked for the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, are accused of hacking the computer systems of several anti-doping agencies in order to obtain personal health information for nearly 250 athletes.

The GRU officers conspired to release the pilfered information “selectively, and sometimes misleadingly,” according to John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for the National Security Division. The operatives made contact with 186 reporters in order to disseminate the information, according to a grand jury indictment released on Thursday.

“All of this was done to undermine those organizations’ efforts to ensure the integrity of the Olympic and other games,” Demers said at a press conference announcing the charges.

Three of the seven GRU officers were charged by the Special Counsel’s Office in July for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, Demers added.

Demers said that the current indictment did not arise out of the special counsel’s investigation, but he asserted that the hacking schemes used the same methods and had the same goal: “to pursue its interests through illegal influence and disinformation operations aimed at muddying or altering perceptions of the truth.” (RELATED: Mueller Indicts 12 Russian Nationals In Hacks Of Democrats’ Emails)

The GRU officers targeted the World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and Canada’s anti-doping agency, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

“The GRU did so in response to the efforts of anti-doping officials’ exposure of Russia’s systematic and state-backed athlete doping program. Embarrassed by that truth, Russia fought back by retaliating against the truth tellers and against the truth itself,” said Demers.

The alleged conspiracy began in December 2014 at around the time of the Sochi Winter Olympics and picked up steam following the release of the first installment of the McLaren Report in July 2016.

The report alleged that the Russian government subverted anti-doping measures during the Sochi Olympics.

The indictment also alleges that four of the GRU officers traveled to The Hague in April 2018 and attempted to hack into the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They had plans to travel to the Spiez Swiss Chemical Laboratory, which was at the time analyzing the chemical agent used to poison Sergei Skripal, the Russian defector who was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent in March.

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